England's Antiphon

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Sweet baby, sleep; what ails my dear?

What ails my darling thus to cry?

Be still, my child, and lend thine ear

To hear me sing thy lullaby.

My pretty lamb, forbear to weep;
Be still, my dear; sweet baby, sleep.

Whilst thus thy lullaby I sing,

For thee great blessings ripening be;

Thine eldest brother is a king,

And hath a kingdom bought for thee.

Sweet baby, then forbear to weep;
Be still, my babe; sweet baby, sleep.

little infant once was he,
And strength in weakness then was laid

Upon his virgin mother's knee,

That power to thee might be conveyed.

Sweet baby, then forbear to weep;
Be still, my babe; sweet baby, sleep.

Within a manger lodged thy Lord,

Where oxen lay, and asses fed;

Warm rooms we do to thee afford,

An easy cradle or a bed.

Sweet baby, then forbear to weep;
Be still, my babe; sweet baby, sleep.

Thou hast, yet more to perfect this,

A promise and an earnest got,

Of gaining everlasting bliss,

Though thou, my babe, perceiv'st it not.

Sweet baby, then forbear to weep;
Be still, my babe; sweet baby, sleep.

I think George Wither's verses will grow upon the reader of them, tame as they are sure to appear at first. His Hallelujah, or Britain's Second Remembrancer, from which I have been quoting, is well worth possessing, and can be procured without difficulty.

We now come to a new sort, both of man and poet--still a clergyman. It is an especial pleasure to write the name of Robert Herrick amongst the poets of religion, for the very act records that the jolly, careless Anacreon of the church, with his head and heart crowded with pleasures, threw down at length his wine-cup, tore the roses from his head, and knelt in the dust.

Nothing bears Herrick's name so unrefined as the things Dr. Donne wrote in his youth; but the impression made by his earlier poems is of a man of far shallower nature, and greatly more absorbed in the delights of the passing hour. In the year 1648, when he was fifty-seven years of age, being prominent as a Royalist, he was ejected from his living by the dominant Puritans; and in that same year he published his poems, of which the latter part and later written is his Noble Numbers, or religious poems. We may wonder at his publishing the Hesperides along with them, but we must not forget that, while the manners of a time are never to be taken as a justification of what is wrong, the judgment of men concerning what is wrong will be greatly influenced by those manners--not necessarily on the side of laxity. It is but fair to receive his own testimony concerning himself, offered in these two lines printed at the close of his Hesperides:

To his book's end this last line he'd have placed: Jocund his muse was, but his life was chaste.

We find the same artist in the Noble Numbers as in the Hesperides, but hardly the same man. However far he may have been from the model of a clergyman in the earlier period of his history, partly no doubt from the society to which his power of song made him acceptable, I cannot believe that these later poems are the results of mood, still less the results of mere professional bias, or even sense of professional duty.

In a good many of his poems he touches the heart of truth; in others, even those of epigrammatic form, he must be allowed to fail in point as well as in meaning. As to his art-forms, he is guilty of great offences, the result of the same passion for lawless figures and similitudes which Dr. Donne so freely indulged. But his verses are brightened by a certain almost childishly quaint and innocent humour; while the tenderness of some of them rises on the reader like the aurora of the coming sun of George Herbert. I do not forget that, even if some of his poems were printed in 1639, years before that George Herbert had done his work and gone home: my figure stands in relation to the order I have adopted.

Some of his verse is homelier than even George Herbert's homeliest. One of its most remarkable traits is a quaint thanksgiving for the commonest things by name--not the less real that it is sometimes even queer. For instance:

God gives not only corn for need,
But likewise superabundant seed;
Bread for our service, bread for show; Meat for our meals, and fragments too: He gives not poorly, taking some
Between the finger and the thumb,
But for our glut, and for our store, Fine flour pressed down, and running o'er.

Here is another, delightful in its oddity. We can fancy the merry yet gracious poet chuckling over the vision of the child and the fancy of his words.

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